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Skin Tags on Dogs

What Are Skin Tags on Dogs?

Skin tags found on dogs are small, irregular growths of skin. Typically situated on areas such as the chest, legs, and neck, these growths signify skin that has developed differently from the norm. While skin tags are not classified as emergencies, it’s advisable to have your veterinarian assess them during the next annual check-up. Maintaining a “skin journal” noting their location and size can aid in recalling pertinent information for your next veterinary appointment.

What Do Skin Tags on Dogs Look Like?

Skin tags on dogs are often not visible until they are palpated during petting or bathing sessions. These tags consist of small portions of skin connected by slender, stalk-like structures. Typically measuring only a few millimeters in size, they are movable and typically painless. Skin tags can exhibit either a pink or darker hue and may occur singularly or in clusters.

Skin Tag Look-alikes

Skin tags can resemble ticks, masses, warts, and cysts, yet they possess distinct differences. Ticks may pose a challenge to identify; refrain from attempting removal if legs extending from the body are not visible, and seek veterinary assistance first. Certain cancers, such as melanoma, may mimic a black skin tag, leading to potential confusion.

Skin cysts typically exhibit stronger attachments and larger sizes compared to skin tags. Their consistency varies between firm and soft, contingent on their contents. Although some cysts may feature a small attachment akin to a skin tag, they tend to increase in size over time. Warts, on the other hand, are slightly elevated, firmly attached to the skin, and generally immobile.

It’s crucial to observe skin tags for any alterations. If you detect changes such as growth, increased size, or the emergence of multiple tags on your dog’s body, promptly seek veterinary attention to determine if a biopsy is necessary.


Skin tags on dogs typically stem from chronic irritation, often manifesting in pressure zones like the chest, knees, and elbows. Continuous rubbing of the skin due to collars or harnesses can also contribute to their formation over time. Additionally, skin conditions triggered by allergies—whether from fleas, food, or the environment—may prompt biting and scratching in specific areas, potentially resulting in the development of skin tags. Viruses are not a common cause of skin tags in dogs.


The papilloma virus can lead to the development of skin tag lesions. While papillomas commonly result in warts, they can occasionally cause clusters of skin tags. Generally, the papilloma virus is not a significant concern and can be treated by removing the skin tag or wart. In cases where multiple skin tags cause discomfort to the dog, antiviral medications may be prescribed.


Boxers, hound breeds, bully-type terriers, English Bulldogs, and Pugs are frequently observed to have skin tags. Nevertheless, skin tags can develop in dogs of any breed.


Veterinarians typically diagnose skin tags in dogs through examination of the lesion. However, if the cause remains uncertain, a biopsy becomes necessary. Biopsies represent the sole definitive method to diagnose a skin tag.

During a biopsy, cells are extracted from the lesion and forwarded to a laboratory for comprehensive analysis. A pathologist at the laboratory examines specific cells under a microscope to provide a conclusive diagnosis. Given the lesion’s small size, removal may be necessary to obtain a sufficient sample for laboratory submission.


If your dog is not bothered by skin tags, no treatment is necessary. However, if the lesions result from a viral infection, antiviral medications may be prescribed for treatment.

Surgical removal stands as the sole cure for skin tags. This procedure can be conducted under general or local anesthesia, depending on factors such as the tag’s location, size, and the dog’s temperament. Typically, skin tags are excised during other procedures like dental cleanings, spaying, or neutering. Rarely is skin tag removal performed under general anesthesia unless a biopsy is required for diagnosis.

Surgical removal methods include excision, which involves cutting the skin tag’s attachment, or cauterization, which employs heat or electricity to burn the tissue attachment. To prevent chewing of the area during healing, the use of a recovery cone or collar is recommended.

Recovery and Prevention

Recovery and prevention of skin tags in dogs involve implementing certain measures to reduce their occurrence and manage existing ones effectively. While complete prevention may not be possible, there are steps you can take to minimize the likelihood of skin tags developing.

Similar care is required for both prevention and management:

  • Provide soft, supportive bedding to minimize irritation when your dog lies down or moves around.
  • Ensure that collars or harnesses fit properly to prevent irritation in those areas.
  • Address any underlying allergies that may be causing irritation to the skin, which can contribute to the development of skin tags.
  • Keep skin folds clean by using products like MalAcetic and Mal-a-Ket wipes to prevent irritation and infection in these areas.
  • Be mindful of potential trauma to skin tags, whether it occurs during grooming sessions or during play. Treat any injuries to skin tags as wounds and seek appropriate medical attention. Make sure your groomer is aware of the presence of skin tags to avoid accidental cutting.
  • Regular monitoring is essential. Keeping a journal to note the description and size of skin tags each month can be helpful. Inform your veterinarian of any changes during your next visit or earlier if you notice any concerns.

By following these steps, you can help promote the health and comfort of your dog while managing the presence of skin tags effectively.

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